Sanjay Theodore


NameSanjay Theodore (he/him)
Country of BirthIndia
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Dealer GalleryJonathan Smart Gallery
ArtformVisual arts, Screen
Decades Active1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Sanjay Theodore is a visual artist based in Tāmaki Makarau Auckland who works across several mediums, including moving image, photography, painting and installation. Theodore describes himself as a political reactionary, often using provocative imagery and installation throughout his exhibitions to address racism and hidden violence toward Indian communities. Born in Ludhiana, Theodore lived in India until he was 6 years old, and then lived in several different countries as his father travelled globally while working in medical technology research.

While Theodore was studying at the New York Studio School in the late '80s to the early '90s, he became interested in the work of artists such as Susan Rothenberg, Judy Pfaff, and Elizabeth Murray for their exploration of space and the nature of material. He interpreted the level of bigotry toward women and feminism as similar to cultural racism, so he gravitated towards these artists because of their work and feminist criticality.

After finishing his studies in New York, Theodore returned to Aotearoa. In 1995, his work Curious Orange was included in the exhibition, The Nervous System, curated by Allan Smith at City Gallery Wellington. The painting resembled a Rorschach test, a mirrored golden orange amorphous shape on a black background that had pigment derived from several spices and crushed paua shell — creating an amalgamation of substances derived from his culturally varied background.

From 2011 to 2015, Theodore was based in Mumbai, where he was represented by Chatterjee and Lal for several years. Through this representation, Theodore showed his work at GALLERIA CONTINUA in Paris in the seventh installation of Sphères (2014), an international presentation of artists from around the world through select galleries.

In his 2021 exhibition Crusader at his dealer gallery, Jonathan Smart Gallery in Ōtautahi, Theodore used images that he had taken while living in India. In a piece titled Roast Chickens, a sign with the words “ROAST CHICKENS TAKEAWAY FOOD” hangs above a photograph of two boys on the streets of Mumbai, one smiling while holding a toy gun to the other's head. Theodore puts this statement, presumably taken from above a takeaway restaurant, and attaches the term to the boys in the photograph, posing questions about cultural stereotyping and human value through the lens of ethnicity and culture.

In 1993, Theodore helped create an episode of the TV3 documentary television series Inside New Zealand Under the Carpet: Racism in New Zealand which focused on racism towards Indian communities within Aotearoa. He continues to work in film and television.


Key works / presentations

2021 — Crusader, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Ōtautahi

2021 — The Song Remains the Same, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Ōtautahi

2019 — A Dictionary of Sanjay’s Modern Painting, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Ōtautahi

2016 — Motu, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Ōtautahi

2014 — Sphères 7, GALLERIA CONTINUA, Paris

2012 — Panorama, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Ōtautahi

2010 — WTF: Agaz, The Physics Room, Ōtautahi

2010 — M-13, Bartley & Company Art, Pōneke

1999 — I think I know who you are, Te Uru, Tāmaki Makaurau

1995 — The Nervous System, City Gallery Wellington, Pōneke

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Last updated: 3 March 2024 Suggest an Edit